Helen Tufts was born November 10, 1896, in Exeter, New Hampshire. She was the youngest child of Professor Tufts and his wife Effie. She lived her entire life in Exeter and documented it in detail. There are diaries from her life preserved at the Exeter Historical Society and scrapbooks and pictures have recently been preserved which tell her story and give a wonderful glimpse into our town, Exeter, New Hampshire.
It appears her name was not decided upon when it was recorded. I am not aware of any middle name, but we all know she was known as Betty her entire life.
Betty was probably educated in her father’s home, as was likely for all the Tufts children who preceded her. Irving, Miriam, Delmont, Theadora, and her closer brother Jim all got the benefit of their father’s command of English at home and probably more. James A Tufts was establishing himself as a professor of English and other studies at Phillips Exeter Academy. They lived in a fine home on Pine Street. Later, Betty attended Robinson Female Seminary and possibly The Berkley School of Music. She learned to play the piano and organ and continued for her entire life playing the organ at the Unitarian Church in Exeter and giving piano lessons from her home. Many period news articles indicate she played the piano and organ for numerous occasions in Exeter. One I found from April 1933 lists the baritone for the event as Robert Kreger. She and Bob were married in 1936. (Note added 4/18/23: Professor Tufts also taught the Classics in his first year at PEA. He taught the Greek and Latin necessary for boys to enter Harvard and other schools.)
An interesting story caught the eye of Exeter Historical Society historian Barbara Rimkunas when she first read Betty’s diaries. She never told her father she had married Bob and did not live with him for nearly a year. She finally does tell her father and it is announced in the Exeter Newsletter soon thereafter.
Notes from Betty’s diaries: 1937, May 16 (Sunday) “Bob says to tell father of our marriage tomorrow am” May 17 (Monday) “Confessed my marriage to Bob in Jan 1936. Told Father of Bob’s & my marriage on Jan 27 1936. He broke down at the blow. Sent R to check him [Ruth-his new wife]. Very sorry to hurt him….Waited for Bob & all had supper together at 7. Out with him in evening to see cemetery lots, then to get his clothes, etc. from Bow St. Spent first night together in this house using my room, top floor.”
The Historical Society in Exeter mentions Betty and her diaries at least ten times in their “Historically Speaking” articles or “History Minute” videos. They are in the process of transcribing the entirety of her diaries from 1908 to 1990. (Support them if you can.) One of the recent stories is completely centered on Betty and her entry into driving a car, including a story about a wild ride with brother-in-law Nat Burleigh and chauffeuring her father around Exeter.
Betty’s nieces and nephews and their children were an important part of her life. She saw many of them grow up in Exeter and at the Unitarian Church and gave most of them piano lessons. Aunt Betty was an important part of the family, like an extra Grandmother, she always attended the family events. Many pictures exist of these get-togethers, including weddings and holidays. There was also a part of Betty’s life many of us did not know about. Her diaries and scrapbooks show how full a life she led. She was active with numerous associations, including the Unitarian Women’s Alliance where she held the State director post. She loved the outdoors and went canoeing, horseback riding (and competing), and trips with her father during his retirement years. Betty loved her time and association with the Robinson female Seminary and organized their reunions. She must have been devastated when the old school burned to the ground. This list is just a small amount of her life. For a full description one should read her diaries and enjoy her scrapbooks when they are donated to the Historical Society. There are also many old Tufts pictures which have been donated as negatives to the Historical Society. (See below). They are also available to be seen in a cloud drive. Contact me for more information.
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Cousin Chuck Tufts sends in this information about Aunt Betty’s musical education and trips to Boston: “Aunt Betty studied under Arthur Foote in Boston taking the train at least once a week to Boston and returning in the evening. I got the impression she did this for several years. Arthur Foote was a noted composer in Boston. Aunt Betty knew how to get around on the “T”. She also had season tickets to the Symphony. She saw Stravinsky’s first performance of “Rite of Spring”, in 1917. She said she walked out. It was very modern, now a classic.”